Work People About Contact

Data Portraits at the 2017 TED Conference

2017 Target + TED | Technology Retail

Known in recent years for the online video series, TED Talks, TED began as a meetup for entrepreneurs, thinkers, tinkerers, and doers in 1990. Today, the marquee annual conference in Vancouver is both a return to roots and an international media event that attracts high–profile innovators, up–and–coming disruptors, and top–tier corporate sponsors. In 2017, long term supporter Target called on Accurat to design an ice–breaking activation based on the year’s theme, “The Future of You.”


Conceptualize an on–site, on–theme, and on–brand activity on behalf of Target for TED2017.


A dedicated space for Data Portraits: Illustrated pins that acted as conversation starters and branded keepsakes.


Brand & data visualization design; Front–end development


Activation; Data portraits


By 2017, Target had been a TED sponsor for over a decade, each time responding to the annual theme with a fresh new take. With that year’s edition, they wanted to rethink the potential of a tricky topic: personal data collection. Could it be used for good? They challenged us to imagine a data–driven activation that could lead to meaningful mingling at the networking conference, and potentially, long-lasting connections. We worked in partnership with David Stark Design to come up with an experience that fit the bill.

We brainstormed ways to show how data could be personalized to reflect a person's character without exposing private information, eventually landing on the idea of "Data Portraits:" compact artworks generated based on participants’ responses to a personality–based questionnaire.

We worked collaboratively to come up with items for the survey, keeping in mind that the questions would need to be thoughtful enough to yield meaningful responses, yet non–confrontational. The final survey included prompts like “When do you get your best ideas?”, “How messy is your desk?”, and “Do you follow rules or do you break them?” While highly subjective, the questions could nonetheless be answered with multiple choice options, and thus easily assessed as data.

For the design itself, we leaned on the artistry of our co–founder Giorgia Lupi. She created a taxonomy by hand that translated answers into one–of–a–kind designs composed of drawn shapes, colors, and symbols.


The portraits presented a highly personalized, humanistic approach to data–gathering. To underscore this point, Lupi volunteered to sketch live at the event on her iPad. Anticipating that many would line up to "sit" for a Data Portrait, we created a web app version that recreated Lupi’s Q&A process and allowed everyone at the conference to participate.

Lupi's live sessions gave participants a special chance to sit for a Data Portrait with the artist herself. Following the pre–established visual code, her illustrations were nearly indistinguishable from those spun up by the app. Using the app, most guests received pins (along with digital copies, sent by email) within seconds of completing the survey.

Data portraits were printed on pins for guests to wear. The buttons served as literal conversation pieces in some cases, prompting chatter among strangers who had taken part in the exercise. The mini–Portraits were ubiquitous on the conference floor.

Over 500 TED + Target Data Portraits were printed at the event. Fastened to attendees' lapels, they broadened the activation's footprint far beyond its designated station, and even past the duration of the five–day conference. The Data Portraits became meaningful souvenirs once the gathering had ended.

Meanwhile, the last question of the survey revealed some encouraging insight. In response to the prompt "The future is...," a majority of participants responded "Bright."